Fiancee of Burma prisoner ‘betrayed’ by US

The fiancee of an American rights activist imprisoned by Burma said she felt betrayed by the US government and urged a more robust response to the military regime.
n a piece to appear in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Wa Wa Kyaw said she and her fiancee Nyi Nyi Aung had been grateful to become US citizens as their adopted country “cherished democracy, freedom and human rights.”

“But over the past five months our government has betrayed us,” wrote Wa Wa Kyaw, a nurse in the eastern state of Maryland.

Supporters say Nyi Nyi Aung, a democracy campaigner who also goes by Kyaw Zaw Lwin, returned to Burma in September to visit his ailing mother, herself a jailed activist.

He was arrested and on February 10 handed a three-year sentence on fraud and forgery charges.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley has urged the junta in Burma, earlier known as Burma, to release him, calling the conviction “unjustified” and “politically motivated.”

But Wa Wa Kyaw faulted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not doing more on his case before the verdict. President Barack Obama’s administration has launched a dialogue with Burma aiming to end its isolation. Continue reading “Fiancee of Burma prisoner ‘betrayed’ by US”

HRW:Release Democracy Leader U Tin Oo

Harsh Sentence for US Citizen Nyi Nyi Aung Highlights Challenges for Visiting UN Official

(New York) – The Burmese military government should immediately release the 84-year-old opposition leader U Tin Oo, whose house arrest order expires on February 13, 2010, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should also immediately release the human rights activist Nyi Nyi Aung, a US citizen sentenced to three years in prison on February 10 on spurious charges after an unfair trial.

U Tin Oo, the deputy leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), has spent nearly seven years in prison and under house arrest in Rangoon. He has been held under an annually renewed detention order and denied access to visitors and fellow party leaders since 2003. U Tin Oo’s house arrest order expires one day before the arrival of the United Nations human rights envoy on Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, for a visit through February 20. continue

Burma sentences American Nyi Nyi AUNG to 3 years of hard labor

A court in Burma has sentenced Nyi Nyi Aung, a Burmese-born U.S. citizen, to three years in prison for using forged identity documents and carrying undeclared foreign currency.

Nyi Nyi, 40, was arrested in September when he returned to Rangoon to visit his mother, an imprisoned democracy activist suffering from cancer.

The government initially accused Nyi Nyi of trying to foment political unrest, a charge he denied. He was eventually convicted of carrying a forged identity card and undeclared U.S. dollars, and not renouncing his Burmese nationality when he became a U.S. citizen.

Nyi Nyi’s lawyers and the Washington-based rights group Freedom Now say he was arrested before he reached the customs checkpoint at the airport and had no chance to declare his currency. They said that even Burmese authorities admitted there was no process to allow people such as Nyi Nyi to renounce their citizenship at the country’s embassies.

The court sentenced him to five years in prison with hard labor, commuted to three years with hard labor.

Nyi Nyi is a well-known democracy activist who was involved in the 1988 student uprising, a movement that prompted a crackdown by the military junta in which about 3,000 people died.
After fleeing Burma, also known as Myanmar, Nyi Nyi was granted refugee in the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in 2002 and is a Montgomery Village resident. In June he presented a petition to the United Nations on behalf of the families of political prisoners. Continue reading “Burma sentences American Nyi Nyi AUNG to 3 years of hard labor”

A U.S. Citizen’s Curious Journey to a Myanmar Jail

BANGKOK — At last count there were more than 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar, according to human rights groups that track the opaque workings of the penal system in the military-run country. Among them is the unusual case of Nyi Nyi Aung, a naturalized U.S. citizen who gave up a 9-to-5 job in the relative comfort of the suburbs of Washington to campaign for democracy in his native Myanmar.

On Wednesday, a court in Myanmar is scheduled to announce a verdict on charges of forgery, possession of undeclared foreign currency and failure to renounce his Myanmar citizenship when he became a U.S. citizen. He faces 12 years’ imprisonment.

For the administration of President Barack Obama, the case comes at an awkward time, complicating U.S. efforts to try to engage the military government after years of minimal contacts between the two countries.

But beyond the politics of the case is the personal journey of Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung from teenage dissident in Myanmar to exile in the United States and finally what some describe as his curious decision — others call it bold — to travel back to Myanmar last September despite public warnings by the ruling junta that he was a wanted man for his anti-government activities.

Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung had spent the past several years campaigning for democracy in Myanmar from Thailand and the United States, and his work had caught the attention of the junta, which mentioned his name in the official media.

He had made four previous visits to Myanmar since becoming a U.S. citizen in 2002. Each time, including for his current visit, he obtained a visa from the Myanmar government, according to his lawyers. But the September trip appears to have been the first time he visited Myanmar after the junta publicly singled him out for inciting unrest. Continue reading “A U.S. Citizen’s Curious Journey to a Myanmar Jail”

The Burmese-born US citizen Nyi Nyi Aung,detainee ‘refusing food from family’

Feb 4, 2010 (DVB)–The Burmese-born US citizen detained in a Rangoon jail has declined food sent by his family, according to prison officials who spoke to a relative.

Nyi Nyi Aung, also known as Kyaw Zaw Lwin, has been held in Insein prison since arriving in Burma in September last year. In December he staged a hunger strike in protest at prison conditions, and was subsequently moved to the prison’s ‘dog cells’.
His aunt, Khin Khin Swe, the family has been sending him food through prison officials in recent weeks following a ban on him receiving visits, which has been in place since 6 January.
“[The official] told me to come and pick up the parcel we left for Nyi Nyi Aung that morning. He said [Nyi Nyi Aung] refused to accept it,” said Khin Khin Swe.
“I was already worried as [the family] hasn’t been allowed to see him. This raised suspicions in my head that he was sick or on a hunger strike like he did previously.
She added however that she thought it was neither of these, and instead a protest against the ban on visitors. Continue reading “The Burmese-born US citizen Nyi Nyi Aung,detainee ‘refusing food from family’”

Detained American’s hearing nears conclusion

New Delhi (Mizzima) – With the testimony of a defense witness on Tuesday, Rangoon’s Southern District court concluded witness hearings in the trial against Burmese-born American Kyaw Zaw Lwin, (alias) Nyi Nyi Aung.

“Both lawyers will present final arguments on January 22nd, and following that the court will hand down the verdict,” Kyi Win, one of the US citizen’s lawyers, told Mizzima.

The naturalized American has been standing trial on charges of fraud, forgery and illegal entry into the country.

“I don’t want to speculate on what the court will decide but our position is that the accused is innocent,” Kyi Win said.

The international lawyer of Nyi Nyi Aung, Beth Swanke, expanded on the legal position of the defense, claiming the charges are a ‘sham’ and an attempt to frame and imprison the accused, as he is a known pro-democracy activist advocating for democracy and human rights in Burma.

Nyi Nyi Aung, a student activist at the time of the nationwide protests in 1988, was forced to flee Burma to Thailand along with fellow students as the military began cracking down on protestors. He later moved to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen. Continue reading “Detained American’s hearing nears conclusion”

U.S. Embassy officials say a detained Burmese-American has made another court appearance in Rangoon.

Burmese-born pro-democracy activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin was charged last week by a Burmese court with forgery and currency violations.
U.S. Embassy officials say a detained Burmese-American has made another court appearance in Burma’s main city, Rangoon.

A statement from the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon says Burmese-born pro-democracy activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, appeared in court Tuesday. The statement says a consular officer from the U.S. Embassy attended the hearing.

Lwin was arrested in September on his arrival in Burma. Last week a court charged him with forgery and currency violations.

U.S. Embassy officials have visited Lwin in jail, and attended his court appearances. The U.S. has called on Burma to follow international standards of due process in the case.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Friday.

Lwin settled in the United States after fleeing Burma in the late 1980s.

A letter signed by 53 U.S. lawmakers calling for Lwin’s immediate release was sent to the Burmese government last month. The letter says the activist is being held for his pro-democracy activities, and that his detention raises doubts about efforts to improve relations between the U.S. and Burma’s military-led government.

The human rights group Freedom Now says Lwin has been tortured since his arrest. Last month Lwin launched a hunger strike to protest his treatment.

Embassy officials say he has since ended his hunger strike and is now receiving regular medical attention.

US passport is no protection from Rangoon goons

EARLY on September 3, my phone rang. I picked up, thinking it might be my fiance, Nyi Nyi Aung, who was visiting family in Bangkok, Thailand. But it was Nyi Nyi’s brother. Nyi Nyi, he said, had boarded a plane to our native Burma earlier that day, hoping to visit his mother, who has cancer. But according to friends waiting at the baggage claim, he never arrived. In all likelihood, agents of the military junta seized him. Nyi Nyi is an American citizen, I thought. How could this happen? Then, it hit me: I might never see him again.

I called the US embassy in Rangoon; I wrote to our congressional representatives. And I waited. On September 20, 17 days after Nyi Nyi disappeared, the junta acknowledged his arrest. The charge, according to the state-run newspaper, was “plotting riots and sabotage”. I felt sick but not surprised: although Nyi Nyi has always been a nonviolent activist, the junta will say anything to justify its actions. Then, after the embassy was allowed a brief visit, I learned the worst: he was tortured. He was denied food for over a week. Kicked in his face. Beaten on his back. Not allowed to sleep.
As a peaceful participant in the 1988 Burmese student protests, Nyi Nyi had once before been detained and tortured by the junta. I, too, had been involved in the student uprising and fled to Thailand after the brutal August 1988 military crackdown. That’s where Nyi Nyi and I met. While in Thailand, he worked with organisations helping refugees, while continuing to advocate on behalf of Burmese democracy and human rights. continue